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Murder in Pleasanton: Interview with Joshua Suchon (Part 2)

Murder in Pleasanton: Interview with Joshua Suchon (Part 2)

In this second episode of Crime Capsule, we are continuing our conversation with Joshua Suchon about the murder of Tina Faelz. We pick up where we left off a few months after Tina's murder. There are no suspects, but plenty of rumors of who the murderer could be. Time goes by, the case goes cold, but the 1 piece of evidence that was collected starts speaking to investigators and there is a DNA match. Listen in to find out who killed Tina!

Benjamin Morris:
Previously on the Crime Capsule.

Joshua Suchon:
I'm convinced that there's no way that someone could have planned this because you'd be foolish to try to plan a murder in broad daylight, in a path that kids take home from school that's right next to Interstate 680. We know that Tina was last seen right around 3:00 PM, very close to 3:00 PM. You're talking about a 20-minute window basically from when she was last seen to when her body was found, and she had been viciously stabbed to death 44 times.

Benjamin Morris:
What do you do when you find a body on the ground? What do you do when you know who that person is? What do you do when weeks go by and no one is arrested? You talk. You talk about it because in a small town, in a close-knit community, it's the only thing to talk about, because nothing matters more than this. But more importantly, you listen to what everyone else is saying, to the latest news about what has happened, to the weird ways that people joke about the tragedy.

Benjamin Morris:
You listen for what isn't being said. You listen for those little slips of the tongue that say more than someone ever intended. It's the summer of 1984 in Pleasanton, California. It's been months since Tina Faelz was found dead on her way home from school, and the police are no closer to finding a culprit despite a citywide investigation. But among the students at Foothill High School, a very different story is emerging.

Benjamin Morris:
I'm your host, Benjamin Morris. This week, we continue our conversation with Joshua Suchon, author of Murder in Pleasanton: Tina Faelz and the Search for Justice. There are these whispers of a young man by the name of Steve Carlson, one of her classmates who has had some trouble of his own in recent years. Tell us about Steve.

Joshua Suchon:
Steve was that kid who is just always in trouble. Steve had a nickname in the community amongst the students who lived there, called Creepy Carlson. When you look at his school photo, he looks like this all-American boy. He's got these bright blue eyes. He's got this blonde hair that's short. It's parted down the middle in the style of 1984. He was also a freshman. He was an older freshman.

Joshua Suchon:
He had been held back one year so he was already 16 years old. He was the type of kid who, if he was playing sports would cheat or would pick a fight. If you were trying to catch crawdads or turtles in the creek, he would step on it or throw it or kill it immediately. He's not super muscle-bound, but he's strong. He briefly played on the freshman football team, and the group that he ended up hanging out with was the group that was drinking a lot, that was smoking pot.

Joshua Suchon:
They were called the burnouts or the burners. He was someone who was already starting to dabble in drugs and alcohol. He was someone who was very aggressive toward the girls in that area and trying to have some type of sexual encounter with, and he lived across the street from the crime scene.

Benjamin Morris:
He had terrible relationships with women. He stalked them. He tormented them. He did assault them.

Joshua Suchon:
Yeah. Every girl who I talked to had a Steve Carlson story, at least one, if not multiple. There was one who said that Steve followed her home from school and when she got to her house, there was a little courtyard before you would enter the house. Steve was basically assaulting her, trying to rape her. It wasn't until her younger sister came home and literally started to beat him off with a backpack full of books. Then Steve would just laugh and smile and walk away.

Joshua Suchon:
There was another story of this girl who was inside her house, inside her bathroom taking a shower, and Steve let himself in, went up to the bathroom, opened up the shower door and just stood there, looking at her and laughing at her. She screamed and screamed and told him to leave. Then he just smiled and laughed and then left. Those are just a few stories, and again, everybody had a Steve Carlson story. Everyone.

Benjamin Morris:
Had anyone in authority noticed this behavior in Steve?

Joshua Suchon:
Teachers knew. Everyone knew. If you came across Steve Carlson for a couple of minutes or a couple of hours, let alone a couple of days or weeks or years, you knew that Steve was different.

Benjamin Morris:
Now, there was one guy, one teacher named Gary Hicklin, taught wood shop. Mr. Hicklin said that he had a somewhat decent relationship with Steve, but he also said that he kind of gravitated to some of the outcasts in the high school system. He felt like he could get along with them, be kind of a mentor figure, or at least just have a semi-normal dynamic.

Joshua Suchon:
Certainly Gary Hicklin was the one that Steve felt most comfortable talking to, wood shop and ceramics and metal shop. That's where a male teacher authority figure can relate to a kid who's a little bit of an outcast. Yeah. Gary Hicklin thought that he had a pretty good relationship with him and was able to connect with him in ways that maybe the female English teacher could not.

Benjamin Morris:
What happened on that day to lead to the events that put him close to the scene of the crime?

Joshua Suchon:
We've already described what a chaotic day it was for Tina Faelz. Now, for Steve Carlson, his parents were out of town. The parents decided they were going to go to Reno and go party and have a good time and leave the kids alone. There was four kids. The oldest had graduated from high school, Steve was a freshman, and then there was twins who were in junior high.

Joshua Suchon:
They just left the kids alone and decided that they were going to go to Reno to have a good time for the week. There's no parental supervision. Steve wakes up that day and decides, "I'm going to throw a party at my house. We're going to get drunk and we're going to have a good time. I'm going to become popular because I got a place where we can all hang out and we can drink."

Joshua Suchon:
He starts drinking and he goes up to campus in order to try to convince some friends to come back to his house and party with him and nobody wants to go. He goes back home and he keeps drinking more and he gets pretty drunk. He goes back to the school again and he picks a fight with a member of the varsity football team and Steve gets thrown inside this trash dumpster. They shut the door, they lock it and then this dumpster gets pushed and rolled over.

Joshua Suchon:
A number of kids then are assisting as he is rolling over and he's got trash that's all over him. Gary Hicklin, the teacher who we just described from wood shop is the one who hears the commotion and goes out and stops this and unlocks it and realizes that Steve Carlson is inside this dumpster. He tells Steve, "Go to the administration building." Instead, Steve is humiliated and he goes back home. When he goes back home-

Benjamin Morris:
He's still drunk at this point, right?

Joshua Suchon:
Oh, yeah. Yeah. It's 10 o'clock in the morning.

Benjamin Morris:
He drunks as a skunk. He's covered in trash. He's been humiliated beyond anything that any human should experience. I mean, what happens? What does he do next?

Joshua Suchon:
He goes back home. Now, what we don't know for sure is exactly how many times Steve went on campus. How many times he went back and forth. There's reports that he went joyriding in his mom's car at least once, maybe twice. We know that he was on campus at least once because of the fight and we're pretty sure that there was another time when he was trying to convey people to come back to the house with him.

Joshua Suchon:
We do know that at lunchtime a number of students went to check on him, as one person told me, just to make sure that he hadn't committed suicide, or just to check on him. We know that there was a number of different people who did come to the house at various points and drink with him. Again, this is lost over the course of drunk people trying to remember something from 30 to 40 years ago.

Joshua Suchon:
What we do know is that there was a lot of alcohol that was consumed at Steve's house, that the liquor cabinet was broken. That at some point the students went through his mom's underwear drawer and was throwing the underwear around the room I presume to be the bedroom. We know that Steve was extremely drunk. One person told me that he was drinking vodka straight from the bottle without mixing it with anything, with any ice or anything like that.

Joshua Suchon:
We know that eventually students were went back to campus at the end of lunch period. We know that Steve passed out at one point and woke back up and realized that his plan to be the cool guy who would throw a party has completely evaporated, that he's drunk and the house is a mess and his parents are going to be coming home at some point, not that day. They were scheduled to come home either the following day or maybe two days later.

Joshua Suchon:
He thought that he was going to get a whooping from his dad. He's drunk. He's possibly on some other type of drugs, because we know that he was a drug user and that he had access to some drugs. We know that he is very angry because of what's happened school and what's happened at his house.

Benjamin Morris:
Then what we don't know is exactly what happened next. What we do know is that shortly after 3:00 PM, Tina was found dead. What we also know is that in the days and weeks after her murder, Steve starts to say things that no normal student at Foothill High would say.

Joshua Suchon:
Correct. On the day of the murder, Steve sat on the roof of his house with other students and watched the police work the crime scene. That's how close he lived. It was literally across the street from the crime scene. Steve was not interviewed by police the day of the murder, but he was in the days that followed multiple times. The police interviewed him. They interviewed him again. They put him in the back of a car with a neighbor named Todd Smith.

Joshua Suchon:
They drove around to different locations to try to work on the timing of where they were and figure out what had occurred. Then what becomes so infuriating for students at Foothill High is that Steve started to say some really cryptic things. He would say things such as, "Have you ever wondered what it's like to put a knife inside somebody's body?" But then he would always just smile and joke and say, "Yeah. I don't know either. I don't know what that's like."

Joshua Suchon:
Then especially when Steve was drunk and he was at parties, his talk started to get a lot more loose and he would start to say, "Oh, yeah, I killed Tina because she wouldn't do my homework." Then he would always say, "No, I'm just kidding." Steve would later tell the police that he did this because he wanted people to think that he was a tough guy, that he was a badass so that people would leave him alone.

Joshua Suchon:
He said that he was picked on and he was bullied and that was his way of having people leave him alone. There was one student who I interviewed and he said that it was a few days after the murder. He couldn't remember exactly whether it was a couple of days or a couple of weeks. He said that he was in the garage, and it was him and Steve and somebody else, and they were smoking some pot.

Joshua Suchon:
Steve said, "Would you get rid of a knife for me?" The third person at this quasi-party said, "Yeah. I'll get rid of the knife for you." This person who I interviewed, his name is Don Costa. He said that he got a really bad feeling and he said that he looked Steve in the eye and he said, "Did you kill Tina Faelz?"

Joshua Suchon:
Steve did not deny it, but he also did not admit to it. Don remembered just thinking, "There's something wrong with this guy. I think he did it."

Benjamin Morris:
He said something like, "Only God knows." Right?

Joshua Suchon:
The wood shop teacher, Gary Hicklin asked him at one point and Steve offered a similar type of explanation, "Only God knows. Or maybe I did maybe I didn't." That raised a lot of red flags. You have this kid who was already troubled. Everyone has a story about him. His nickname is Creepy Carlson. He lives across the street from the crime scene and in his own words, he is saying these really cryptic things or these blatant confessions while always saying, "No, I'm just kidding."

Joshua Suchon:
So for the students at the campus, it was obvious that he did it. They thought, "Of course he did it. He obviously did it. Why have they not arrested him? What is wrong with the police? How can they not solve this murder when all of us know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was him? It had to be him. He had everything. He had the access. He could get away with it. He was already this messed-up kid."

Joshua Suchon:
This is where I don't know exactly what could have happened. That could have changed things, because even if 100 students all individually went to the police department and say, "This is what I've seen. This is what I've heard. This is what I've observed." Let's be honest, that would not be enough. That's all hearsay. There was still no evidence.

Joshua Suchon:
There was no cameras. There no witnesses. There was no DNA. There was no blood that was found on Steve or his clothing. He wasn't even interviewed the day of the murder. Even if they had arrested him, there's no way that would ever go to trial. There wasn't enough evidence to get a guilty verdict. So while the police were certainly suspicious of him, and continued to be very suspicious of him, they just didn't have any evidence other than his own mouth.

Joshua Suchon:
In fact, a year and a half later, when Steve was in juvenile hall for something else, once again, there was this talk from parties about who could have killed Tina and Steve's own quirky personality and Steve's own mouth admitting to it at times. The police interviewed him. This was a year and a half later.

Joshua Suchon:
This was in January of 1986. He admitted that he said these things, but he also adamantly told the police, "I didn't do it. That's just what I say as a joke again in order to make myself look like this tough guy." The police felt like, "This isn't right, what this kid is doing, but we don't have any evidence to do anything about it."

Benjamin Morris:
I mean, your own sister heard him say it.

Joshua Suchon:
Yes. I asked her about this Steve Carlson guy and I said, "Did you know him? He was a student." She said, "Oh, yeah. He used to walk me home from school." I went, "Wait, what? What? Was this guy in our house? Did I know this guy? Was this guy around?" She said, "He was probably around at some point." I didn't remember who he was. I said, "Well, I'm reading these things on Facebook and these comments about how he used to admit to it." She said, "Oh, yeah, he confessed to me at a party one night." My mind is blown at this point.

Benjamin Morris:
Yeah. What did she do? How did she react?

Joshua Suchon:
What my sister did say was that after she heard this from Steve, she was freaked out and she told her boyfriend, "We're out of here. We're leaving." She told me that she thought that they went to the police department that night. There's no record in the transcripts and the police report about them going to the police that night, but there is a report that the police talked to my sister's boyfriend at the time. His name is Lonnie Brooks.

Joshua Suchon:
I also got the sense that there was a lot of people who wanted to say something and felt something, but they didn't have absolute knowledge. Look, there's that expression, snitches end up in ditches, right? Nobody wants to be the one who says, "I absolutely know this." Because number one, nobody absolutely did know it, but also they wanted to say, "Well, that's the rumor, that's the talk or you need to talk to this person or you need to talk to that person. That person really knows what's going on."

Joshua Suchon:
You're talking about a lot of people who don't trust the cops and don't want to help the cops, for whatever reasons as well.

Benjamin Morris:
Well, there's got to be another reason too, right? I mean, Tina was stabbed 44 times. You don't want to anger someone if they are potentially still within your community, who is capable of stabbing a person 44 times.

Joshua Suchon:
Absolutely. The longer that you go without saying something, the longer you sort of become an accomplice, and that leads us perhaps to the story of Todd Smith. Todd Smith is one of the most interesting characters in this. Todd is someone who was not great friends with Steve Carlson, but was friendly enough. They hung out. They did some things. They lived right in next to one another, not literally, but within very small area.

Joshua Suchon:
Todd Smith was someone who was interviewed by the police multiple times early in the investigation. Todd is someone who basically gave the alibi to Steve for Steve without realizing completely what he was doing. Todd told me later that he had saw the body, he saw how gruesome it was and he didn't think that a kid could do that. He thought that he was protecting his friends, protecting his neighborhood by saying, "Oh, no, there's ..." He just thought there's no way that a kid, that somebody I know could do this.

Joshua Suchon:
Todd provided an alibi to the police, which ultimately led the police to say it couldn't have been Steve. Someone said, "No, he was with me, couldn't have done it." Todd Smith's story changed so many times that the police didn't know exactly what to think. Todd said that he was in the neighborhood and somebody came by and said, "Hey, there's a dead body over there in the ditch."

Joshua Suchon:
Todd went over and he saw the body. Then he went over to Steve Carlson and said, "Hey, Steve, do you want to see a dead body?" Todd has told me that Steve is the type of person who would absolutely positively want to see something like that, but Steve said, "No. I don't want to go there." He observed that Steve's hair was wet as if he had just taken a shower or if he had just been in a swimming pool, that he had changed his clothes from earlier in the day.

Joshua Suchon:
Again, these are things that Todd Smith says in the 2010s. It's not what he said in 1984. He provided an alibi initially and then he was more vague and not knowing for certain what happened. Then he just clammed up and did not want to talk to the police at all, and so because his story shifted so many times, the police did not consider him a credible enough witness.

Benjamin Morris:
What happened, Josh, from 1987 till 2008? What happened over those 20 years until a little bit of daylight started to show again? What was that like?

Joshua Suchon:
What happened was a lot of new investigators took over the case and tried to see if they could find something that previous investigators could not find. What happened was a lot of people moved away and forgot about it. What happened was a lot of kids grew up and became parents themselves and whenever they would get back together for reunions or semi-reunions, they would naturally talk once again about what happened to Tina Faelz.

Joshua Suchon:
What we now know happened is that a crucial piece of evidence sat in storage, waiting and waiting. Not just waiting to be looked at, but waited for technology to catch up so that when that crucial piece of evidence was discovered, it would work to solve the case.

Benjamin Morris:
The evidence was there. It was waiting. Why was nobody able to make anything of it in all of that time? Was it just a matter of not having the technology or was there a lack of foresight, interest? Why did it sit for 20 years?

Joshua Suchon:
We're talking about a purse. This was the crucial piece of evidence. The purse of Tina Faelz was found in a tree above her body on the day that she was murdered. That purse was placed into a brown bag that you would find at a grocery store and was placed in evidence. That purse was tested for fingerprints to see if there was any fingerprints that could be used. No fingerprints came back.

Joshua Suchon:
As a result of that, there was an assumption that this is a piece of evidence that cannot help us solve the case and so it sat in evidence. At the time that it was initially placed in evidence, DNA technology did not exist. There was no sense of finding a microscopic amount of dried blood that could then be used to solve a case. But by 2008, DNA evidence had changed and suddenly that technology did exist in order to help solve a case.

Benjamin Morris:
A year after she dies, two years after she dies, no new information is forthcoming, no new evidence is turning up. I mean, the police say that without any new leads, that they have to put the case on ice. They have no choice.

Joshua Suchon:
Yeah. You've got other police work to do. Until somebody comes forward with new information, you're just spinning in circles. There's nothing that you can do at that point. Then the students from the school, they graduate, they go off to college in different cities. Maybe they continue to be in Pleasanton. New people move into the city who are not aware of what's happened.

Joshua Suchon:
The police officers from that case, they move on to other cities. New officers arrive. People retire. The neighborhood in which the murder took place is now fully developed. The crime scene is now somebody's backyard, whether they realize it or not, and life returns to this pleasant city called Pleasanton.

Benjamin Morris:
Pleasanton itself only had a tiny handful of cold cases. There was one you called Baby Doe, which I gather remains unsolved. Then you have Tina. What is interesting about the fact that you might have these cases which are on ice, is that in the police force itself, you have some old hands like Lieutenant James Knox who had known Tina's case from the very beginning. He had walked the grounds looking for the murder weapon, right?

Benjamin Morris:
You also have some fresh faces. You've got some new eyes. You have a new detective who had joined the force in the '90s. She joined the force. She had worked on other beats and then had become an investigator on this particular case a little bit further down the road. Now, Lieutenant Dana Savage was pregnant at the time she started looking into Tina's murder so she wasn't actually able to do much field work, but she could work the case files. Tell us about Dana.

Joshua Suchon:
Yeah. When Dana got further into her pregnancy, she was not doing a whole lot of work in the field and in the office, but she was able to make use of her time at home by studying old cases. Tina was one of the cases that she studied. She also worked with police from nearby Dublin about a case that was somewhat similar to Tina's, where they were looking to see what type of evidence they might have that would bring the two cases together.

Joshua Suchon:
An officer from Dublin and an officer from Pleasanton, Dana Savage, worked together. They shared notes, they shared information, they shared evidence, and so they were kind of working on these dual cases somewhat together. They interviewed people in jails in order to find out if there was any information that they knew about either one of the cases.

Joshua Suchon:
The case in Dublin was Ilene Misheloff who went to the same junior high as Tina did. She went missing five years after Tina's murder, and to this day, that case has still never been solved. They were just trying to look to see if there was any type of connection between these two, since Dublin and Pleasanton are right next to each other. They're both pretty small cities, just to see if they could find something.

Benjamin Morris:
What else was Dana able to turn up in those early investigations once she really started doing a deep dive?

Joshua Suchon:
The main person who they were focused on at this point was James Daveggio. James Daveggio was someone who had an extremely long rap sheet and was recently ... Well, depending on our timeline here, was someone who had been arrested. And because James was from Pleasanton and because there was a book that was written about him and a lot of other cases, at a certain point, there was just a lot of people who just assumed that James Daveggio was the person who did it.

Joshua Suchon:
To this day, when you google James Daveggio's name about different crimes that he committed, Tina's name often still pops up, because it was just kind of like this assumption. It had to be Daveggio. His nickname was Froggy. He had a long list of crimes that he had committed. He went to Pleasanton's Foothill High School. He didn't live far from the area, so a lot of people just thought it had to be him because he did all of these other cases that were around there.

Joshua Suchon:
He had this book that was written about him called Rope Burns. I think that there was just an assumption that it had to be him, and so Dana and the detective from Dublin interviewed James and interviewed a number of people thinking that it must have been him. James did not confess to it. He offered no evidence about that, and so the case continued to remain unsolved.

Benjamin Morris:
Did he have an alibi for Tina?

Joshua Suchon:
I think that he was out of town. I think that he was either living in another city or there was something that made it seem that it was doubtful that it could be him just based on where he was living at the time.

Benjamin Morris:
Well, that's the thing. It's so easy for even trained investigators to get a little bit of tunnel vision or a little bit of horse blinders on it. Suddenly the evidence seems to fit your theory rather than the other way around. Let's go back to the crime scene. Let's take another look at the purse. When Dana takes a look at this purse, we're back in early 2000s again, she does find blood spatters on it, small, a few, but there are blood spatters.

Benjamin Morris:
Is there any indication from the piece of evidence itself, such as the direction of the spatters, the amount or the volume of blood that would tell us anything additional about the murder, or is it we just have blood and we're going with that?

Joshua Suchon:
They just had blood, and we're talking about microscopic amounts of blood. The purse was kind of a dark brown/reddish type of purse. When you look at it with the naked eye, it's not like you're going to obviously see blood. We're talking about small amounts of blood that were dried from over 20 years on a dark purse. It's not until you get one of those lights that you use in like a hotel room to see how gross is this bed?

Benjamin Morris:
Ultraviolet or ... Yeah.

Joshua Suchon:
You use that and that's when you see, "Hey, there's something here. There's some type of stain. We don't know exactly what this is, so let's send it to the FBI lab and let's see what's there." It wasn't obvious what it was. It's just, there's probably something here. Let's have technology help us solve what this is.

Benjamin Morris:
Did you get to see the purse yourself?

Joshua Suchon:
Not in person. I've seen photos of it, and I've kind of seen it from a distance, but I've not held onto the purse myself. I don't think that either one of the ... either the prosecution or the defense would want my hands on that purse.

Benjamin Morris:
Not anymore. No. The purse arrives at the FBI crime lab in Quantico in September 2008. Dana says, "We're getting this sucker tested, no two ways about it." As you write in the book, real life isn't a CSI television show. The purse sits for two more years until a technician can work on it, but when they do, the lab finds that there is a tiny sample of blood that is definitively not Tina's and is definitively a male's. Can you describe the process of arriving at that conclusion?

Joshua Suchon:
Well, first let's back up. When it comes to sending the purse to the FBI, there was a number of other pieces of evidence that were sent. Again, it's between the Ilene Misheloff case in Dublin and the Tina Faelz case in Pleasanton working on this together. We have a number of different pieces of evidence. We don't know what it means. Let's send all of it to the FBI and let's see what we can come up with.

Joshua Suchon:
But because this is a shot in the dark, it is not a high priority for the FBI office. They're in Virginia. There's a lot more important cases that need to be looked at first. Now you finally get two years later, we now have technicians who can analyze this, and as you say, there is blood on this purse. It is not Tina's blood. We've been able to take samples from Tina's clothing that was drenched in blood and the FBI was able to come up with a profile. This is what Tina's blood is.

Joshua Suchon:
Now we can determine that there's these other very small blood stains on this purse that belong to somebody else. I'm not a biologist or a chemist to tell you exactly how DNA works, but I can tell you that there's a number of different numbers that match up. Then from there, they're able to determine that this is a male. They're able to determine whether this is an African American male or whether this is a Hispanic male or whether this is a white male.

Joshua Suchon:
Most importantly, they're able to just get a sample of this blood and then they can run that sample through the nationwide database to see if it matches anybody who is in that database. Again, you're kind of throwing a dart at a board at this point, but lo and behold, they put this sample of this male, of this white male into the database and they get a hit.

Benjamin Morris:
They get a hit. One of the things that feels to me like still kind of one of these unanswered questions about the day of the murder, about the afternoon of the murder really, is we know that Tina was stabbed. We know that the killer used a very large knife, and we know that some of his blood ended up on that purse. What does not seem to be established in the record though, there's kind of a interesting absence here, isn't there?

Benjamin Morris:
Because there's the question of how did the killer's own blood end up on that particular purse, right? Did the killer himself suffer any injuries? It's very common in knife attacks that both parties do not emerge unscathed. Knives are notorious for causing collateral damage to everybody around them, and especially in the hands of somebody who's not trained, as we understand Tina's killer to be.

Benjamin Morris:
Is there any explanation as to what injuries the killer might have suffered in course of handling this knife? Or do you think that the fight itself is where Tina drew blood from her assailant and that's how it got spattered on the purse? What is an understanding of how it got there?

Joshua Suchon:
Those are all excellent questions, and that would be a central part of the court case. For the defense it's, "Okay. So my client's blood was on the purse. That does not prove that my client did it. There's a number of ways that the blood could be transferred from my client to the purse. You offer no explanation of exactly how this happened. There's a number of ways that someone's blood could end up on a purse."

Joshua Suchon:
That becomes a central part of the actual court case and that becomes a very important part for the prosecution to try to give a theory of how that happened. Basically, the theory was that in the process of stabbing someone with a knife, the knife slips. At this point people are sweating. At this point there is blood. The grip on the knife starts to not be as strong.

Joshua Suchon:
Maybe there's not a blunt edge at the end of where the handle is, where it might slip, where it might hit a finger where it might hit some type of a body part when Tina is trying to fight back. At some point, the assailant ends up getting cut and that blood ends up on a purse. But certainly there's no video, there's no witness. The bottom line is we don't know a hundred percent how the blood got on the purse. We just know that blood got on the purse.

Benjamin Morris:
Tina's killer, as we understand it now, there were no lacerations that we know of, or if there were, he was careful to conceal them afterwards, wasn't he?

Joshua Suchon:
Yes. That is correct. What we also know about the killer was that he was not thoroughly examined the day of. It wasn't until days later that police were able to interview him, and any type of cuts that might have been on his body certainly were not huge and certainly had healed a little bit more by that point.

Benjamin Morris:
We get the hit in CODIS, and this is where the timeline starts to get interesting, isn't it? Because the purse is in Virginia this whole time awaiting its examination, but the person of interest in the case who was interviewed by police and then released, who has been walking around, walking those same halls, has not been able to stay out of trouble the last 20 years.

Benjamin Morris:
In December 2010, this person is arrested on drug charges and a parole violation in Santa Cruz and he submits to a DNA test on being incarcerated, as he's required to do. His DNA goes into CODIS, and if it hadn't been for that, we wouldn't have the hit that we got. It's just interesting, Josh, isn't it? Because so much of this case has been based around flukes.

Benjamin Morris:
The fluke of the murder itself, the timing, the opportunity, the circumstances that led to it. Here we have another fluke that his DNA had just been entered into the system. Who was this guy?

Joshua Suchon:
We actually had two flukes. The first fluke was that when the purse and the other evidence was sent to the FBI in 2008, this person's DNA was not yet in the system. If they had tested it immediately, they would not have gotten a hit, but they had to wait over two years because there was more pressing cases.

Joshua Suchon:
Then by the time they did examine the evidence, now this person's DNA was in the system because of this arrest for drug charges and a parole violation. By having to so many other backlog cases and having to wait two years, it ultimately led to the hit, and the person who did it was the person who lived across the street. Steve Carlson.

Benjamin Morris:
Thanks for listening. Join us next Thursday for more from our interview with Joshua Suchon in the next chapter in the story of the murder of Tina Faelz. Crime Capsule is a production of Evergreen Podcasts in partnership with Arcadia Publishing and The History Press, and is a member of the Killer Podcasts Network.

Benjamin Morris:
A special thanks to our producer, Sarah Willgrube; audio engineer, Ian Douglas; production director, Brigid Coyne; and our executive producers, Michael DeAloia and Gerardo Orlando. I'm your host, Benjamin Morris. We're just getting started here at Crime Capsule, and we're excited to bring you the best of true crime writing over the upcoming weeks and months. To find out more, visit us at evergreenpodcasts.com.

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